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Published December 01, 2009, 11:03 PM

Text of President Kelley's State of the University Speech

Thank you and good afternoon.

A “state of the university address” is a valuable opportunity. It is a time to reflect and evaluate, and to contemplate a shared vision for our institutional future and to begin the process of refining that conversation into an action plan for moving forward.

I believe that it is time for UND to make some major steps forward, both in its expectations for itself, and to achieve its full potential for our society.

So, instead of reciting a litany of specific achievements recently made by faculty, staff and students, and of the many accolades and awards received by UND’s departments (including the athletic department), colleges, schools and centers, I would like to lay the foundation for what I believe should be UND’s future. It is my hope that these comments will begin a collective conversation that will extend through the remainder of this academic year, and that will result in the development of, and a shared commitment to, specific action items that will advance UND and its many components and constituencies going forward.

I also intend to include in my remarks some of the necessary priorities that I feel UND will need to make to be successful in our transition from “great to exceptional”.

As UND prepares to enter its 127th year in January 2010, I believe that all of us in the UND Family can take considerable pride in the work that we do to continue the mission, goals and distinction of this great institution.

Let me take a few moments to discuss where we currently are:

As we move through the 2009-2010 academic year, UND enjoys substantial support from the North Dakota legislature, the executive branch, the State Board of Higher Education and our congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. These groups continue to support the vision of higher education as an economic engine for our state, and to sustain the principles of flexibility with accountability in the management of our institutions. Overall, UND appreciated a significant increase in its budgeted expenditures. As a matter of fact, I think I’m safe in saying that this is the best budget position ever — a position that is remarkable when compared with other public postsecondary institutions across the nation. UND’s budget supports the mission of preparing students for tomorrow: 13,172 students this semester — 10,440 undergraduates and 2732 graduates — 15 students shy of a record enrollment — as they pursue degrees in some 220 fields of study which include 90 majors, 70 minors, 59 graduate programs, 24 doctoral programs, 2 professional programs and 1 specialist diploma. In addition, we appreciate support from the state for renovation and addition to the College of Education and Human Development building, and for construction of a new building for the UND Family Medicine Clinic and Residency Program in Bismarck. Planning is already under way for both of these projects.

UND also appreciates the positive partnership with the cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks; the communities in the state that support UND’s Family Medicine programs; the community hospitals that assist in the education of students in medicine, nursing and the health sciences; and for the Grand Forks Airport Authority and the Grand Forks Air Force Base for their ongoing support for UND’s programs in collegiate aviation. In return, the UND community contributes over $100 million in economic development to the Grand Cities.

I might also add that the budget supported by the Governor, the legislature and North Dakota’s congressional delegation continues to position UND as an affordable and accessible university, fully compliant with the academic plan and goals of the North Dakota University System.

Going Forward:

As I talk with faculty and staff across campus, it is clear to me that the institution is dedicated to the creation of knowledge, the transmission of that knowledge to our students and to colleagues in our disciplines, and to the application of that knowledge to the problems of society (put differently, building North Dakota through teaching and learning; research, scholarship and creative work; and service to the community and State). This is the strong base upon which we will continue to build.

It is also clear to me that UND enjoys significant synergies in three multidisciplinary selected areas: energy and the environment; the biomedical, behavioral, and life sciences; and the liberal arts.

And it is also clear to me that these selected areas are further enhanced through functional connections with the professions: medicine, nursing and other health professions; business; law; education; and the advanced technologies that are fundamental to the sciences, engineering and mathematics.

So, what should UND emphasize? What do we aspire to become in the years ahead?

First and foremost, my vision of the future is one in which the UND student experience will make a demonstrable difference in the values, the talents, and the critical thinking and problem solving that graduates must be able to bring to a global society. UND will be a national leader in the integration of the liberal arts into the education of every student with the goal of providing the highest quality opportunity for individual growth and fulfillment in that global society.

UND must also aspire to providing students with the highest intellectual and practical skills: inquiry, analysis, critical and creative thinking, written and oral communication, ethical reasoning, quantitative literacy, information literacy and teamwork and problem solving.

UND will continue to be committed to excellence in teaching and learning, and in the provision of activities and services that will make that possible. To this end, UND will be a national leader in the application of advanced technologies to teaching and learning, and, further, through an increased emphasis on learning networks within the experience of the university.

UND will become the premier institution for research and development related to energy utilization, renewability and sustainability; and also in the development and implementation of sustainable policies for our environment.

UND will be the nation’s leader in health care education and training for rural primary care and for rural health care policy. To this end, UND will continue to emphasize the importance of research and scholarship in the basic and applied life sciences.

UND must place a high priority on its research enterprise. Better organization within the new Office of Research and Economic Development will focus on enhancing technology transfer and the management of intellectual property, and increasing UND’s competitiveness for extramural funding.

UND will continue to lead the world in the field of collegiate aviation, and in the research, development and commercialization of innovations related to unmanned aircraft systems.

UND will aspire to achieve the highest possible rates of student retention and degree completion, both undergraduate and graduate.

And, in addition, UND will aspire to a significant international and multicultural presence, both on campus and abroad, with the goal of creating a learning environment that fosters greater curiosity and understanding in students regarding international and intercultural issues. The emphasis should be on student and faculty engagement with the big question, both contemporary and enduring.

Permit me a few moments to elaborate on some of these points:

First, I hope that it is clear that I’m addressing some fundamental — but fairly large — questions that will impact UND’s growth as a research university. What characteristics and qualities do we want our graduates to exhibit in a global society; what kind of world environment will UND promote in which they will live and serve; and what quality of life will UND promote that will enhance the fulfillment of the individual, both on campus and going forward (and I might add for those of us who work at UND on a daily basis)?

I submit that the people who will shape tomorrow are in today’s classrooms, laboratories, centers and clinics. And I submit that the strategies that today’s students are using to learn — for example, the formation of on-line networks and IT-based information management — are practical innovations that are challenging traditional pedagogy and traditional strategies in higher education. Students are using informational and networking technologies more and more as a component of their college experience and for their learning.

It is my judgment that UND is lagging behind in the use of IT for student learning and should position itself to take the lead in the applications of technology for both teaching and learning, and in computational research and scholarship.

What will make UND fresh and engaging in the future will not only be a greater application of technology to teaching and learning, but also the continued development of some of the initiatives that are taking place on campus right now.

For example, the faculty and the academic leadership of UND are re-shaping undergraduate education through the evolution of general education requirements as foundations of learning. The essential studies program develops a fabric of knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving that weaves its way throughout the undergraduate years.

It is also my observation that UND’s graduates will need to be comfortable in international settings.

International study at UND is not a distraction. The data shows us that students who have an international study experience as an undergraduate perform at a higher level academically and graduate at rates that are higher and earlier than their counterparts who do not study abroad. An international presence and experience for UND students must become a higher priority for this institution; and that experience must include cultural awareness, language proficiency, and knowledge of history and societal development in regions of the world that lie beyond the borders of North America.

As we go forward, our students and their faculty members must also continue to be creative and entrepreneurial. I’m going to elaborate on this point in some depth, as there are opportunities for synergies in teaching, learning, research, and tech transfer and commercialization in the following example.

The new Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Vehicles, abbreviated respectively as UAS and UAV, is a remarkable opportunity for UND. This center of excellence, supported by both state and federal resources, is designed to research and develop technologies for unmanned flight. The activity is far from “unmanned” and will require development of new, innovative ways for crews on the ground to fly machines virtually all over the world. Think about this for a moment from a multidisciplinary perspective, and from the standpoint of education, research and development, entrepreneurship, and commercialization. Add to your thinking the perspectives of human behavioral analysis, ethics and public policy. Pilot training requires that new instructional software be developed. New flight simulators must be designed to utilize this software. Flight systems require new remote sensors to keep pilots on the ground informed of what’s happening in the air, and to keep vehicles from bumping into each other while in the air. Higher resolution imaging systems must be developed to analyze what’s on the ground. Newer, more fuel efficient engines must be designed — and new sustainable fuels developed — perhaps from hydrogen, or sustainable biomass. And behavioral studies of human performance for pilots and maintenance crews must be completed and understood, depending upon the wide range of activities in which UAVs will be engaged.

The work that will be done at the UAS Center of Excellence has the potential for starting up new businesses, or expanding the product lines of existing businesses. Furthermore, development of this potential requires expertise from multiple disciplines: students, faculty and staff in engineering and mines, education and human development, business and public administration, aerospace, the department of entrepreneurship , the EERC , the Center for Innovation and the REAC 1 facility in UND’s research park, nursing, psychology, medicine and health sciences, chemistry, and, not to leave anyone out, our law faculty may be required to assist the FAA in working through rules and regulations for use of airspace. How UND develops the teaching, research and entrepreneurial potential in the UAS Center will be an additional metric in how well the institution achieves both its mission and vision.

Let me turn to the goal of bringing UND to a premier national position in the fields of energy and the environment.

North Dakota is blessed with an abundance of carbon-based energy resources. Our state is also blessed with the basic materials required for renewable and sustainable energy generation: geothermal, wind and biomass. UND must develop an even greater presence in energy research and education. And we will continue to expand programs in the responsible use of our environment.

Two weeks ago, I met with a group of students encouraging me to continue to emphasize the goals of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. Our students are telling UND that we must exercise leadership in our communities, and throughout society, by modeling ways to reduce global warming by limiting CO2 emissions, and by providing the knowledge and the educated graduates that will continue to work to achieve climate neutrality. In many ways, I believe that this issue is the defining issue for this generation of students. As I conversed with this group, I was reminded of the work being done by students and faculty across campus to catalog UND’s carbon footprint, and to develop technologies that will significantly reduce carbon emissions and the overall carbon footprint of the university. Faculty and staff in the EERC are applying new technologies to store carbon, and to evaluate commercial production of alternative fuels like hydrogen. As a result of work continuing on campus, and through the persuasion of UND’s students, it is not unreasonable to envision UND as a premier institution developing solutions that address energy utilization, sustainability and policy. UND must become the go-to institution for developing solutions that address the quality of the environment, including such complex issues as global warming and air and water quality.

Finally, let me speak to how UND must become a leader in fulfilling the quality of life for the individual. Put differently, what should UND do to become a premier institution that contributes to the development of the whole person — in the holistic sense?

For me, quality of life embraces a wide range of intellectual and physical pursuits: arts and humanities, including music and theatre; science and technology; physical exercise; intelligent conversation on the issues of the day; travel and an informed interest in what’s happening around the world; and personal relationships. Sometimes, quality of life requires that we stop, listen, reflect, contemplate, process some new piece of information – and smile. Listen to the Twamley Carillon at noon. UND permits us to do that.

And to this end, I believe that it is desirable that UND aspire to be a premier institution known for providing a student with the foundation for a fulfilling existence, someone able to be accomplished across both general and specialized fields.

I’m saying all of this to emphasize that UND is not only about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, but also to the development of “human infrastructure”, if you will, involving an integration of the liberal arts and humanities with other specialized courses of studies. UND values innovation and creativity in literature, music, visual and performing arts, history, sociology, philosophy, languages and linguistics as well as STEM. All must be valued parts of the vibrant intellectual environment at UND. And all, I believe, are at the core of a holistic “educated” person.

UND must also be at the forefront in the promotion of physical and mental wellness through education and through the provision of health care and the education of health professionals. The UND community enjoys one of the finest wellness programs and centers in the nation. In addition, UND’s College of Nursing and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences are recognized leaders in meeting the health needs of rural populations in innovative and practical ways. The greatest advances in the country in addressing the underrepresentation of Native Americans engaged in the health professions are being made on our campus. And we are positioned to address significant questions through behavioral research by students, faculty and staff in the Department of Psychology and in the Counseling Center in Student Health. Also, we are bringing together the interdisciplinary strengths of the two research universities in our state to deliver a new Master’s of Public Health degree. Collaborating with NDSU, this effort combines elements of pharmacy, medicine, nursing, epidemiology, psychology and social work to form a public health curriculum.

My vision, then, is that UND will become an even greater force in the education and training of health professionals for the state. When we examine the health and wellness of our society half a century from now, we will be able to point to the central role that UND played in preparing health care professionals for rural and frontier America, and to the role that these graduates played in increasing access to health care and to increased levels of wellness in our state and nation.

The Challenge:

In closing, it’s evident to me, through listening to discussions of legislators serving on the Interim Committee for Higher Education and to the deliberations of the State Board of Higher Education, that UND is expected to use its resources to make significant contributions in support of the state’s economy and workforce. To this end, the academic plan of the North Dakota University System, a draft of which can be accessed online in the agenda of the November 19, 2009, meeting of the board calls for significant increases in enrollment, retention and graduation of individuals in the eleven institutions in the state system.

Success in meeting this expectation will require UND to continue to improve its efforts in marketing and advertising — one way of addressing enrollment enhancement and management.

But an additional priority, going forward, will be to increase UND’s retention and graduation rates. At present, based on data published by the UND Office of Institutional Research, slightly more than three fourths of UND’s students continue into their second year of study. And a significant percentage are unable to complete graduation within the traditional four years.

As we move ahead with our plans to meet both the mission and vision for our university, I anticipate a vigorous conversation in the planning process that will address issues of retention and graduation rates; and financial aid and the economic impact on families when students require longer than four to five years to complete a degree. In addition, I would invite discussion regarding sorting of students (viz. by test scores and GPA from high schools); the “undermatching” problem of students fearing that they will be unable to achieve at a four year research institution but who can succeed and should be enrolled; and in promoting environments, including financial ways and means, by which under-represented minority students, specifically American Indian students, can matriculate and graduate from UND.

So…let me extend a call to action.

I invite the campus to join in a conversation during the next semester about planning the next steps for UND. We have engaged in two comprehensive strategic planning exercises in the last decade, and we ought not to have to reinvent the wheel in charting our strategies and tactics for tomorrow. Under the direction and leadership of the Provost, the academic deans, and the leadership of every department at UND, our goal will be to determine how each unit will approach the goals expressed this afternoon, and then to identify the specific major actions — and the resources — needed to move each component of the university to the next level.

One word of caution:

It will be a mistake to think that UND should attempt to be all things to all people.

But I firmly believe that UND can make a difference in preparing the society of tomorrow. We have the talent, the commitment, and the collegial and collaborative attitudes that will show that the University of North Dakota is a special place — because of our people, and because of what our people are doing. I firmly believe that UND’s lasting priority — and UND’s lasting legacy — will always be our students and our graduates, and the provision of opportunities for those students to excel — to be the very best — be it in the classroom, laboratory, studio, clinic, cockpit, business incubator, or in athletic competition.

We have work to do.

I look forward to the next several months as we define the strategies and action items that will take UND from Great to Exceptional. We will do so together.

Thank you, Professor [Wendelin] Hume, for this opportunity to address the University Council.

[This talk was delivered at the University Council Meeting Tuesday, Dec. 1.]